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December 2, 2015 at 9:35 am

Student Teams Design Their Own Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods

Student presentation in CAS 1415

Katie Meehan, Allison Prybelski and Brooke Siggers give their team presentation in CAS 1415. Team member Ariana Brown is not pictured.

Undergraduate students enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences Introduction to Sustainability (CAS 1415) course become urban planners for a day.

Students in CAS 1415 recently put what they learned about sustainable urban planning into practice by designing their own sustainable neighborhoods. During the preceding two weeks of class, Geography faculty Dr. Harold Perkins and Dr. Geoff Buckley taught the students basic principles of innovative urban design that follow the “Three Es” of sustainability including environmental sustainability, social equity, and economic longevity.

Each student team then created a hypothetical mixed-use neighborhood that featured affordable, energy efficient apartments above a variety of street-level businesses including cafés, restaurants, shops, and community centers.

Sustainability Studies theme logo“Sustainable urban redevelopment must include considerations such as green building practices incorporating energy efficiency and renewable energy, vibrant green infrastructure like parks and forests, walkable/bike-based neighborhoods, comprehensive public transit, and locally owned businesses,” said Perkins. “Urban redevelopment must also include affordable housing so as not to spark displacement of less wealthy residents.”

For the CAS 1415 project, students were broken into five groups and responded to the challenge of sustainable urban design by planning mixed-use neighborhoods that featured apartments in green buildings above street-level businesses. The student planners designed their neighborhoods to discourage automobile-based transportation in favor of walking, biking, and public transit. All of the neighborhoods featured extensive green space in compact neighborhoods as residents need easily accessible green environments in which to recreate. Student designers also recognize that green spaces act as their city’s lungs and also assimilate storm water runoff that in turn protects urban waterways.

CAS 1415 is an introductory course developed specifically for the Sustainability Studies theme. It is team taught by Drs. Nancy Manring, Edna Wangui, Perkins, Buckley, Dina Lopez, and Kelly Johnson.

Manring, Wangui, and Lopez report that the “planner for a day” project in CAS 1415 was a great success. The students had much fun while working together to put their knowledge of sustainable urban design into practice.

Perkins proclaimed that he would like to live in all of the neighborhoods designed by the student planners. Buckley also reminded everyone that the sustainable neighborhoods designed by the students are the kinds of places young people increasingly prefer to live as opposed to the sprawling, auto-based suburbs in which they grew up. Perkins and Buckley look forward to conducting the “planner for a day” project again next semester in CAS 1415.

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